With women making up only about 4 percent of fire fighters, the all-female executive board of Teton County, ID Local 4667 is truly unique among IAFF affiliates.
IAFF 7th District Vice President Ricky Walsh says, “We celebrate as our union leadership becomes more diverse.” He says the 7th District recognizes the lack of diversity in the fire service and is striving to address this issue through programs such as the IAFF Elected Human Relations Committee and the 7th District New Member Conference.
Teton County Fire and Rescue, which is 13 percent women, is a combination department.
It’s only natural that some of the department’s women were elected into leadership roles. “We are a small local of 18 members, so we take turns in various leadership positions,” says Local 4667 President Charis Schreiber, a 20-year veteran fire fighter.
“I think we make a great team,” says Secretary-Treasurer Corey Gittus, the first woman to join the fire department in 2011. “We all are in positions that fit our skill sets. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together.”
Local 4667 Vice President Rebecca Parkinson agrees. “It is important for us to have a voice, and not just during contract negotiations. That’s how we ensure membership needs are being met and that we stay safe on the job.”
Schreiber always wanted to be a fire fighter and began working on her fire science degree immediately after high school. In 2007, she first became a member of Kootenai County, ID Local 2856 before she later moved to Teton County and became a member of Local 4667 in 2016.
Gittus was introduced to emergency services as a ski patroller. She trained to be an EMT and was encouraged to also take basic fire fighter training. As it turns out, she really liked it and wanted to continue, so she joined the department.
When Parkinson first moved to Idaho, she became an instructor for backcountry leadership expeditions. During the winter months, she worked as a ski patroller and trained avalanche search dogs. This is where she developed an interest in becoming a fire fighter and eventually joined Teton County Fire and Rescue.